So, those of you who read my last post know that in school right now, we are studying poetry. And it is making me very, very happy. So happy that I came home from school and scrounged up a few old books of poetry...and kept working, even though we didn't have any official homework.
Which is...oops. Totally weird. I was never supposed to be a public schooler. (sigh)
But anyhow. I figured that in a blogging world full of word-lovers and poetry-writers, maybe some of you would find the same joy that I did when my English teacher did his lesson on annotations. (which sound boring but are actually VERY, VERY awesome.)
(Baaaasically, super-quick, these annotations are short interpretations of poetry. You read through the poem several times with the intention of finding your own unique interpretation and being able to back it up with evidence found in the poem.
Okay, English nerd rant over. Now the fun starts, I promise.)
(Actually, to be totally honest, this whole post is an English nerd rant. Continue at your own peril.)
(I promise I use way less parenthesis than I did in the first paragraph of this post.)
|When the Pie Was Opened, Jean Little|
Step 1. Read the poem all the way through, simply for enjoyment. Turn off that part of your brain that is hunting for literary devices and pretty phraseology, and just read. Don't even have a pencil in your hand at this point (I included mine to make the picture more artistic, whoops. It's not even sharpened properly.)
Step 2. (Now you can grab that pencil.) Start circling or underlining or making boxes around the things that stand out to you right away. It could be words you don't understand, pretty phrases, or weird indentations that you really dislike without quite knowing why. In this poem, I immediately noticed the word 'niggardly,' because I thought it was a derogatory term and I didn't understand why it would be used in this poem. IT IS NOT. Apparently, "niggardly," means 'reluctant to give or spend; miserly; stingy' * and originates from Scandinavia. Huh.
Step 3. Now it's time to get into the mechanics. Start looking for literary devices, rhyme schemes...all the typical English-smenglish nonsense that we've been hearing about all our lives. Underline this stuff, too. Make it beautiful. (when I'm just writing on notepaper or handouts from school, I like to use a highlighter as well as pencil.)
Step 4. Begin to form interpretations and opinions. This is my favourite part! You can kinda see bits and pieces of my thoughts all over the page, so I'll just bullet-point some stuff to make it easier to read.
- When I was reading In Retrospect, I noticed that it had a really defined rhythm that kept falling apart in the last line of every stanza. About halfway through the poem, this was resolved and the final three stanzas have the perfected rhythm. This is about the same point in the poem that the speaker begins to realize that her relationship was confining, and so I thought that perhaps she used the first two imperfect stanzas to show that she knew something wasn't quite right in her relationship...and then she felt better, the issues resolved themselves after she was free.
- She calls him "frail," like maybe she expected him to be perfect and strong all the time and he wasn't, he was only human. Or maybe it was their love that was frail, because it wasn't real?
- I love the use of the word "dimensions," because to me it says that she realized that their relationship wasn't infinite: it could be contained.
- He makes her feel like her heart is a simple square room, boring and bland and with no mysterious allure or potential for hidden secrets...but in reality, she is a castle full of doors, lots of possibility, and she even though she can be loved and lived in, she can't be owned. No one can really own a castle...they're too magnificent.
Step 5. Expand on these opinions and begin to collate your thoughts into an overall interpretation of the poem. I kind of skipped this step because I was running out of room, but on my English assignments for Mr. G, I like to find a blank corner of paper and write a summary paragraph, because oftentimes my initial notes don't support my final interpretation. For this poem, I'd jot down some notes on how it's about her realization and recovery from an abusive (or at least possessive) relationship. I'd talk about the phrase "dimensions of our love," and how she uses that to make their feelings for each other something physical, instead of emotional, to show that it wasn't significant...I'd talk about the one room vs. castle comparison again, to explain that she came out of the relationship with a new sense of self-esteem and self-worth beyond what her boyfriend had attributed to her, and I'd probably mention the whole flawed>fixed rhythm thing, to show her journey through the different stages of emotion after the breakup.
IF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE, you all get cookies.
IT'S SO PURTY. (if you have a phobia of writing in books, you can often find the poems online and print them out, or if copying is your thing, you could write them down in a journal. I personally like re-reading old annotations so I chose to write in my book...but I know that's not everyone's cup of tea.)
So, wow. That was kind of intense.
*according to dictionary.com